RealTime IT News

MSN 8 Does Home Networking

MSN is the latest national broadband provider to jump on the home networking bandwagon, announcing free support and rebate on a bundled MSN-Microsoft Broadband Networking Wireless base station service, officials announced Wednesday.

The deal doesn't become official until the release of MSN 8, the latest version of Microsoft's Internet service, which is expected to roll out sometime in October or November.

Whether home networkers will really benefit from the deal depends mainly on whether they buy a Microsoft wireless hub or not, since other hardware manufacturer hubs aren't supported. Customers will need to continue calling their equipment maker for support issues.

The support costs for the digital subscriber line (DSL)-based service are incorporated into the ISPs monthly bill, which range between $39.95 and $49.95. The monthly service isn't expected to increase with the launch of MSN 8. Officials at press time were unsure whether the free support applies to current MSN users with a Microsoft base station.

Parul Shah, a MSN product manager, said the benefits are evident for MSN users who use Microsoft gear.

"One of the benefits of what we're offering is integrated support," she said. "If you're a DSL customer, you will often call EarthLink or another provider because you are having a problem setting up your home network and they'll say, 'oh, that's not us, go call NetGear or Linksys, or whoever your hardware provider is.' "

The free support -- albeit only with Microsoft products -- is a refreshing attitude compared to many of the other broadband providers out there who charge a monthly fee to support home networking.

Of the major broadband providers in the U.S. who offer a home networking package, only SBC/Yahoo! DSL refrains from adding a charge to the service. BellSouth charges $10 a month, while EarthLink DSL users are charged $9.99 a month. AT&T Broadband, one of the few cable companies who even offer the service, charges $4.95 for every additional computer networked to the router.

Microsoft's base station currently runs for $159 on its Web site, though MSN is running a promotional $30 rebate promotion over the Christmas holiday to make the pricing a little more appealing.

That price still puts it ahead of the competition: you can find a Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL router for $119 or a D-Link Airplus for $112 on many e-commerce sites. Of course, nothing can stop an MSN user from buying their own router and using it with their MSN service, but officials are betting the all-in-one support will convince many to opt with the MSN 8/Microsoft base station service and support.